The Flights to New Zealand
I left the USA on March 1st, but didn't arrive in New Zealand until March 3rd because I lost a day crossing the dateline on the way TO New Zealand. Also, I had a four hour stopover in Tahiti because I flew Air Tahiti Nui. I'd really like to comment on how incredibly gracious the flight crew was on the two-legged flight. They seemed to be looking for ways to make the passengers more comfortable - before they were asked. For example, they passed out fragrant flowers that grow in Tahiti to everyone near the beginning of each flight. They had a relaxed way about them, and yet they still managed to keep an air of authority. You knew they were in charge, which I found to be very reassuring. Not to mention the fact they were all very beautiful/handsome.
Even though we didn't arrive in Tahiti until 8pm, it was still crazy hot. I was sitting calmly not doing anything and I was still sweating. I bought a neon orange tank top that caught my eye - and that helped me stay cool while waiting for the second leg of the flight.
I had thought about spending a day or two in Tahiti, but when I read the guidebooks it didn't sound like a good place for a woman to travel alone, and it sounded very expensive... and the heat! Whew! So I'm glad I passed on it. I met a few folks at the airports and on the plane who were also going to New Zealand, but we never managed to connect again once we arrived in New Zealand. For one thing, no one had cell phones, only email addresses. By the time someone got your email and replied, you were already somewhere else!
Friday, March 3, 2006
Kris, and her daughter Zoe, picked me up at the airport. It worked out well because they were planning to make the two hour drive that weekend anyway to see a DaVinci exhibit in Auckland. We had to wait a little while for customs to wash my hiking shoes and tent - to be sure I wasn't carrying in any organisms - but it wasn't too long before we were out of the airport.
After getting a little lost driving in downtown Auckland, we eventually made it to the backpacker (that's what the New Zealanders call their youth hostels) where Kris had made a reservation for us. After a nice, hot shower (ahhhhhh) I tried to use my hairdryer/curling iron and it blew up. I think I had my converter on the wrong setting. But it was okay, because once it was broken I felt more comfortable just letting my hair air dry each day instead of worrying about how it looked. It was very relaxing to just let my hair go.
Anyway, then we got some dinner at a place called Wisconsin Burger. :-) We thought we three were going to have our own room, but it turned out there was also a guy in there named Kain. It was okay though, because he was really nice. He and I had a really nice conversation. And Zoe and I played cards - I taught her Spite & Malice, a family card game. I was exhausted and slept well that night.
Saturday, March 4, 2006
The next morning we went to the DaVinci exhibit which was really cool. (To the left is a photo of Zoe and Kris as we were leaving the car to walk into the museum.) Basically, someone had taken the drawings of DaVinci and constructed small-scale, working models of his machines out of wood. There were dozens of these machines all around the gallery, and then an area in the middle where they showed a movie of DaVinci's diving suit design being tested today - by the way, it worked! DaVinci conceived and designed the first submarine, tank, parachute, water skis, etc. And the designs worked! He also improved on basic designs like pullies, cogs, etc. It was neat to turn cranks and see things move - it helped you appreciate what DaVinci did.
While we were waiting to get into the DaVinci exhibit (it was the last day so it was crowded) the line wound through other galleries including one about Maori culture. Maoris are the equivalent of Native Americans in the US. They arrived in boats hundreds of years before the westerners. The boats were called wakas, like the one in the postcard photograph to the right (Copyright: The New Zealand Souvenir Co. Ltd.). There was one of these boats in the museum gallery - it was huge. I thought it was fascinating that people actually set out to open sea in one of these things, not knowing where they were going or what land they would find, if any!
The gallery also had other things like crafts made from jade, spears and other weapons... and also a full-size Maori meeting house like the one in the postcard photograph to the left (Copyright: Craig Potton Publishing).
After the DaVinci exhibit we separated a little bit so we could wander around in whatever area of the museum we wanted. I chose the Natural History gallery - that's where I saw a model of an ostrich-like dinosaur that used to be on New Zealand. It had to be twenty feet high - I was so intrigued by that. I never knew such creatures ever existed. I should've taken a photo of it.
After getting lost a little more in downtown Auckland (I'm sure Kris is giggling as she reads this) we eventually headed east for Whakatane in the hopes of being early enough to catch an outdoor theatre production of "Much Ado About Nothing" - one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies. It was interesting to hear kiwi actors perform with British accents. I really enjoyed the play!